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date: 17 July 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Psychiatric practice with those who are severely mentally ill calls for an ethical approach that builds on, but goes beyond, the biomedical principles applicable to all medical sub-specialties including psychiatry. Although it may not be the only answer for the specific ethical demands of the psychiatry setting, a character-focused ethics fits psychiatric practice particularly well. Features of virtues that explain this fit are outlined here: their nature as composite and heterogenous habits that involve mental attitudes, and affections; possess a complex moral psychology; are partialist and role specific; and include phronesis. In the professional role morality underlying virtue approaches, goals of practice can themselves become role constituted virtues, it is shown, so that the distinction between clinical skills and virtues collapses. And some of the implications of these observations for medical education are noted.

Keywords: psychiatric practice, biomedical principles, character-focused ethics, role morality

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